Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 4/21/13
The Pirates are on the good side of .500 for the first time this season thanks to another rock-solid win over the Atlanta Braves. Saturday night’s victory featured more fantastic pitching and just enough offense to get the job done. James McDonald remains impossible to understand. One start after completely imploding and looking like he had no business starting in the major leagues, he went out and pitched his best game of the year against a great offense. James had some more velocity (lots of 92-93) on his fastball and while his control wasn’t the greatest (4 walks and a HBP), it was good enough to help him rack up nine strikeouts in six innings. McDonald allowed just two hits, and the one run against him came when he allowed one of those plus two walks and the hit batter in the same inning. Outside of that messy frame, he was brilliant. At this point you just have to shake your head when trying to evaluate McDonald in the long run, but this start has to make you feel a lot better about him going forward. For a while it looked like Paul Maholm was going to outdo J-Mac and maintain his long scoreless streak that spanned the entire season so far. Paul was dealing early on and didn’t allow a hit until Andrew McCutchen doubled in the fourth. The Bucs built a small threat in the fifth, but Maholm pitched right out of it. In the sixth, however, the Pirates broke through. Starling Marte walked, Jose Tabata put down a sac-bunt to move him up (questionable move), and Cutch doubled for the second-straight AB to bring Starling home. That was the first run scored off Maholm all season. Gaby Sanchez then tripled that total with the big hit, drilling a bomb to the bushes in dead center for his first homer of the year. Gaby still seems out of place in the cleanup spot against lefties, but he and Garrett Jones definitely seem to be settling in to their platoon roles lately. McDonald was suddenly in line for a win, and the bullpen took care of business the rest of the way. Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli were virtually flawless in closing things down (Grilli struck out the side) to finish off a great night of pitching. Notes: Clint Barmes has been (expectedly) dreadful at the plate and was particularly awful tonight. He was 0-for-3 and had two really bad strikeouts with RISP. Look for some more John McDonald starts in the near future (not that he’ll be much better). Russell Martin handled third base with no problems – he only had one chance and converted it. He was moved back to catcher late in the game. McDonald got a bit lucky in the 5th when Marte was able to rob a homer (not in very exciting fashion, just essentially standing in front of the short LF wall) from B.J. Upton. The Bucs bounced in to three double plays on the night. Pirates 3, Braves 1 / Box / 2013 Record: 9-8 / Next: Sunday, vs. Braves, 1:35 Source: FanGraphs
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